Latest Developments, November 2

In the latest news and analysis…

Development’s holy grail
The Guardian provides an explainer on the post-2015 development agenda, including a warning of the tension inherent in trying to establish Sustainable Development Goals:

“ ‘Getting rid of poverty is about making more stuff and giving it to more people,’ said Claire Melamed, head of growth and equity at the Overseas Development Institute thinktank. ‘It’s a popular thing to do, but climate change is about sharing out limited resources. Politically it’s of a totally different order of magnitude and so contentious.’ ”

Ultimate refusal
The Canadian Press reports that Canada’s highest court has refused to hear a lawsuit brought against a mining company over a massacre in DR Congo:

“[Human rights groups] allege that Anvil, which opened an office in Quebec in 2005, provided logistical support to the Congolese military as it crushed a rebel uprising in 2004, killing as many as 100 people in the port city of Kilwa.
Last January, the Quebec Court of Appeal overturned a lower court ruling in favour of the coalition, saying the complaint should be heard in Congo or Australia, where Anvil also operated.

‘It is unacceptable that in 2012, victims are still unable to hold Canadian companies accountable in Canadian courts, for their alleged involvement in serious human rights violations committed abroad,’ said Matt Eisenbrandt, a member of the board of directors of the group.”

Betting against forests
Global Witness has released a new report accusing banking giant HSBC of making $130 million from financing logging companies “causing widespread environmental destruction and human rights abuses” in the Malaysian state of Sarawak:

“Sarawak’s logging giants, all past or present HSBC clients, have since expanded their destructive model of business to every major tropical forested region in the world. These companies are currently logging or converting forests to plantations in 18 million hectares of concessions – an area three times the size of Norway.
‘HSBC has bankrolled some of the world’s worst logging companies and in some cases got them off the ground with their first commercial loans. The destruction they have caused simply couldn’t have happened without the services and kudos the bank provided,’ said Tom Picken, Global Witness Forest Campaign leader.”

Chocolate lawsuit
Reuters reports that an American pension fund is suing US chocolate giant Hershey to obtain records indicating whether “the candymaker knew its suppliers in Ghana and Ivory Coast used child labor”:

“A 2011 study by Tulane University found that 1.8 million children in the Ivory Coast and Ghana work in the cocoa industry and that the vast majority of them are unpaid. The study also found evidence of child-trafficking, forced labor and other violations of internationally accepted labor practices.
If the court forces Hershey to turn over the documents, the pension fund could look for evidence to bring a lawsuit against the company and its directors. With evidence, the fund said it could claim Hershey violated anti-trafficking laws and knowingly benefited from a supplier using child labor.”

Mali drones
Algeria’s Le Matin picks up on a report by French newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné that the US is considering sending armed drones into northern Mali: 

“The CIA urgently wants to acquire about 10 drones equipped with bombs, missiles and rockets, according to the satirical French paper that obtained the information from French intelligence sources. The US deems the 20 or so small surveillance planes currently stationed in Burkina Faso to be insufficient. They want lethal machines like the ones that operate in Pakistan and Yemen, in spite of the known consequences: from 2004 to 2012, these drones killed 3,325 people, including 176 children, according to a study conducted by two American universities.” [Translated from the French.]

Doing less
Bill Morton, an analyst who has worked for Oxfam and the North-South Institute, calls on Western-based NGOs to consider “adopting a ‘do nothing for now’ approach” to the debate over the successors to the Millennium Development Goals:

“The large majority of proposals on the next MDGs are put forward by people and institutions based in developed countries. So far, thinking and proposals that emanate from developing countries, and that reflect the interests and priorities of people in these countries, are getting relatively limited traction in policy debates and discussions.

That’s why now is the right time for practitioners and analysts in developed countries to take a step back, and to make room for people in developing countries to advance their own thinking on a post-2015 framework. That doesn’t mean the existing thinking isn’t worthwhile. It’s just that there is enough of it for now. It’s fair enough that we loosen our grip on the post-2015 agenda a little, and give those who it will affect most the opportunity to shape it more strongly.”

Two steps back
Inter Press Service reports on concerns that so-called agricultural development “will actually compromise the country’s food security” by pushing smallholder farmers off their land in favour of large-scale agribusiness:

“[Pretorious] Nkhata and the other farmers displaced from the 46,876 hectares of now commercial farmland told IPS that they had obtained their land from a traditional leader but did not get deeds of ownership from the government.
‘They said we were squatters, we were intruders on that land. I had 21 hectares … I lost it all…
‘They (the South African agribusiness) came with guns and threatened to shoot anyone who resisted moving out. They burnt all our household properties without any notice. We were almost 200 households. They burnt my food barns, clothes, blankets, bedding, television set – they even burnt my fields,’ he said.
The agribusiness has since sold the land and closed its operations in Zambia.”

Green costs
Reuters reports that Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal has opted to reduce its annual South African steel output by 1 million tons rather than greenify its furnaces:

“The steelmaker, Africa’s biggest, was given until October 16 to deal with emissions from the furnaces and decided it was cheaper to shut the units rather than complete a project on a dust-extraction system that would capture the emissions.”

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Latest Developments, March 9

In the latest news and analysis…

Bad food
The Guardian reports that a UN food expert has said what people eat, in both rich and poor countries, is leading to a “public health disaster” that requires action from the world’s governments.
“The solutions offered by agribusiness of more hi-tech or fortified foods cannot solve the problems, which are systemic, according to [UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier] De Schutter.
But since this view is in effect an attack on the major economic interests of the west, the question is how the rapporteur thinks change can be brought about. For De Schutter, the UN agencies that have influence over policy in the area of food and health are where they were with tobacco in the 1980s. At the UN high-level summit on non-communicable disease in New York last September, the US blocked tougher wording on goals to combat the epidemics of obesity, diabetes and heart disease in order to protect their agrifood companies.”

Growing hate
Reuters reports that a new Southern Poverty Law Center study has found “hate groups” are on the rise in the US.
“The center counted 1,018 hate groups in the United States last year, up from 1,002 in 2010. The number of groups have been increasing since 2000, when the center counted 602.
[The center’s Mark] Potok said it was hard to gauge how many Americans are members of hate groups, but estimated the number was between 200,000 and 300,000 people.

The law center also found the number of groups specifically targeting gays and lesbians rose to 27 in 2011 from 17 in 2010, and the number of anti-Muslim groups jumped to 30 from 10.
But the number of so-called “nativist extremist” groups who harass people they suspect of being illegal immigrants appeared to be in decline. The number of those groups dropped to 184 in 2011 from 319 the year before.”

Odious contracts
The Center for Global Development’s Kimberly Ann Elliott makes the case for “preemptive contract sanctions” as a new way for policy makers to apply additional pressure on “illegitimate” regimes.
“The informal group of Western and Arab states known as ‘Friends of Syria’ should declare that the Assad regime is illegitimate and that contracts signed after the date of the declaration would be unenforceable in the courts of those countries. The broader the group, the more legitimate and politically credible the declaration would be, but the U.S. and UK are the critical players because of the role that the international financial centers in New York and London play in world commerce.”

World Bank, USA
The Wall Street Journal reports the next World Bank president will be a 12th consecutive American, but it will not be Columbia University’s Jeffrey Sachs who recently launched a public campaign for the position.
“Since World Bank President Robert Zoellick confirmed his departure three weeks ago, no serious people have doubted that the U.S. would maintain its hold on the job – even if they wished for a truly merit-based process that cast aside nationality. Created after World War II, the World Bank has always had an American as president while a European has led the IMF. The combined shares of U.S. and European nations in each organization make it nearly impossible for a candidate from another background to break the unwritten, informal agreement.”

Women making laws
There is “little correlation” between the number of women in a country’s parliament and that country’s performance on other traditional development indicators, according to Manuela Picq who has just wrapped up a stint as visiting professor and research fellow at Amherst College.
“Women’s presence in politics signifies neither a cultural pattern unique to Europe nor is it a monopoly of a presumably more civilised West. Many non-European societies do as well or better, proving the universality of women participation in politics as well as the inadequacy of claims to export women agency.
Politically powerful countries are not leading global trends when it comes to women presence in politics. In fact, indicators show that it is often quite the contrary, meaning that the US and Europe cannot invoke women’s rights when attempting to justify political, economic or military interventions.”

Free-trade blinders
Harvard University’s Dani Rodrik warns against “fetishizing globalization simply because it expands the economic pie.”
“To pass judgment on redistributive outcomes, we need to know about the circumstances that cause them.

If we do not condone redistribution that violates widely shared moral codes at home, why should we accept it just because it involves transactions across political borders?”

Respecting plants
The University of the Basque Country’s Michael Marder argues that public indifference to a “seismic change” in the field of botany is symptomatic of humanity’s unthinking domination of plants, as well as the further entrenching of English as an “imperial language.”
“Just as, up to and including the age of Descartes and Spinoza, no one took philosophy and other fields of inquiry seriously unless the treatises were written in Latin, so the contemporary production of what counts as credible (or, at the very least, effective) knowledge adheres to the gold standard of English and translation into English.
This is not to say that we should be nostalgic for arcane Latin locutions that carried with them a different set of hegemonic traits superimposed, for instance, onto plants. Rather, we ought to realise that rethinking human relation to plants is not only a matter of ethics, but also of survival, for all species, kingdoms and the planet as a whole.”

Good intentions
The New York Times’ Eduardo Porter writes that Western campaigns to end child labour in poor countries can have unfortunate unintended consequences.
“In Sialkot, Pakistan, a 1997 program to stop children from stitching soccer balls misfired even though the program replaced some of families’ lost income and helped children enter school. Moving stitching from homes to centers that could be easily monitored made it more difficult for the mostly female work force to work. One report said family incomes dropped by 20 percent.”